Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Just how dangerous is the world today?

October 10, 2015

christopher_lee180-11

12 October 2015

London

The way it sounds on the networks and the OpEd pages the world is close to WWIII. Syria is on the brink of something although few pundits can say what. Afghanistan is about to go under. A second Intifada is revving up. NATO is sending more troops to the old Soviet borders. Oil is creeping back – a sure sign that no one is in control. Gold is up – a sure sign that a global problem is slipping into crisis status.

But is the world really in such a social and security meltdown? Could it just be that the globe is coping with little local difficulties and not much more? A quick round-up from East to West is in everyone’s interests.

North Korea beloved leader Kim Jong-un said a couple of days ago that his country is easily ready to defend itself if the United States starts trouble. His corps de ballet militaire performed exquisitely in Pyongyang’s main square, jets flew above in tight formation, tanks and full missile carriers rumbled below and Mr Kim made his first public speech in three years. Then they went home. Not even a missile test worth the bang.

China is building artificial islands in South China Sea and America and Japan says they should not and so China has carried on building knowing that no one is going to war over this.

In Sri Lanka the civil war moral tragedy is a matter for the UN but no one is fighting.

To the north, Pakistan and India still disagree over Kashmir, but apart from a few practise shots, no one is going to war over that blunder as once they did.

In Afghanistan, the security mess will get worse, Taliban (Afghanistan) and Taliban (Pakistan) will make inroads, the Americans will deploy troops for longer than expected, but there is nothing going on that suggests a return to the events of the opening decade and a half of this century.

In Africa, there is no way that Libya is on the road to peaceful government but nor is the carnage of just a couple of years back being repeated.

Further south the Boko Haram threat is broadened but not any greater.  The gunmen are on the streets of Guinea but the elections will go ahead as planned.

The UN has 19,000 troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 12500 in South Sudan, 12,000 in the Central African Republic and 10,000 in Mali.  Something’s working there in spite of minor conflicts, skirmishes, coups and corruption as a matter of course.

In Europe, there is Ukraine.  Potentially but mostly theoretically, there is a chance of an East West confrontation but not really. Why?  Because in spite of posturing and statements from NATO, the Alliance will not go to the mattresses over Ukraine and Russia bets on this.  There’s nothing doing in the rest of Europe other than a few separatist groups.

Of course there is Syria etc.  Is it so bad in historical warfare terms? Just about. Two years from the original protest in Damascus in March 2011, the deaths had reached 100,000.  That was a landmark figure that continued to multiply and does not look like stopping. Daesh or whatever we are to call the butcher terrorists is all about asymmetric warfare.  It is not state on state and thus, and this is hard to say, not so bad as might have been.

So this very crude audit of world warfare says there is plenty of politics, plenty of $m ordnance being used but not so many killed.

In truth 95% of the world is not at war. Most people have never heard a shot fired in anger. We might think on that as part of the reason that there are no boots on the ground anywhere that matters.

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Cambridge-Washington Crisis Group

February 11, 2013

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Christopher Lee

10 February 2013

So the general says we’ve won the war. Has anyone told the Afghan people?

The retiring chief of US lead force in Afghanistan says America has won the war in that place. He did not exactly put it that way but that’s what he implied.

General John Allen, who got himself on the wrong end of the CIA Director David Petraeus’ adultery scandal a few months back, was giving his end of tour report when he said his troops had gone ‘a long way’ towards winning a counter-insurgency operation.

So that’s OK then. The General says Afghanistan is fixed. Certainly at this time no one denies that Afghanistan is by and large a safer place than it was before and there have been advances in the way people live and in ways for Afghans to kill not only each other but servicemen from ISAF as well.

Smart independent analysts might point out that General Allen is not talking crap. But, on the other hand, he just might be. So what is the truth then?

The answer is two-fold: firstly, there’s no evidence that when ISAF pulls out the Afghan forces will be able to stop the Taliban taking over. Secondly, whatever the general says, it is still unclear how could it have happened that after more than a decade of killing and getting killed more than 100,000 ISAF troops, with all the latest equipment, including drones, on their side failed to stop the insurgency launching attacks on any day it chose.

Moreover, Amrullah Saleh, who ran the Afghan end of anti-Taliban Intelligence operations between 2004 and 2010, has surely got it right when he says that as NATO pulls out, Taliban will change tactics and instead of waging small attacks they’ll go for spectaculars. The Taliban know that they are seen as a fighting force – mostly on a spectacular scale. The people of Afghanistan don’t need anyone to tell them that power comes out of the barrel of a gun.

So look out for bigger bangs as ISAF draw-down comes. No one will be expected to doubt the message: we the Taliban are chasing out the American and British troops. Which in truth is about right. Because ISAF isn’t pulling out because the job’s done. It’s getting out because domestic politics dictate it. And that is why domestic electorates in places like the UK and the US could not care a toss if the General Allen is speaking the truth. They just want out.

What’s more, they could not care if Afghanistan goes to hell in a hand basket inside 48 hours of US forces turning out their barrack lights. Hardly a presidential or a prime ministerial voter worries about the future of Afghanistan or its people. Afghanistan is seen as yet another military quagmire that should have been avoided.
As for Afghans, they are seen as murderous and corrupt. So why would you want to get into a war in that place and who would care about whatever gloss the general wants to put on it all?

People tell us that peace talks with Taliban are in on-off modes, which is fine. Better to be intermittent than not at all. And remember, you don’t hold peace talks with your friends – only your enemies. So that’s pretty good.

One day soon of course some Mullah Omar Taliban character will be President of Afghanistan and then the coalition electors will wonder what that was all about and why was it necessary to die for that?

One of the guys talking to the Taliban is Mohammed Stakzai. He says there is hope. Taliban ground fighters in their hundred, maybe thousands, have joined in the reconciliation process known as the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme. Great stuff but Taliban foot soldiers have always signed up to whoever has the dollars.

Another fistful comes along and they’ll sign on to that as well – which is why the Taliban does not have to scratch for recruits. Not too good a hope for Afghanistan when ISAF goes.

The only sure thing, maybe even as sure as taxes and death, is that ISAF is going and the electorates and most of the politicians who have funded the fighting of the past decade do not care about Afghanistan – its past, its present or its future. So General Jones can say what he likes. No one cares anyway.

More interestingly, his next job is SACEUR – Supreme Allied Commander Europe. That’s the military wing of NATO and the Supreme Allied Power in Europe. And what’s their biggest headache? Terrorism of course.

Let’s see how long it takes General Allen to admit that terrorism can run from a backroom in a Parisian suburb or a tent in the Malian mountains. It cannot be beaten as long as someone chooses to terrorise – which is news for NATO but something the Afghans have always understood.

 

Christopher Lee

January 20, 2013

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Mali is the new Afghanistan and the US drones are coming – they say you can’t duck

21 January 2013

Following what went down in Algeria and how the Intelligence stuff says the terrorists involved were Mali based, Mali is now, almost officially in Washington, the new Afghanistan.

 

During the past 72 hours, US drone schedules are now including Sahara and Sub-Sahara Target Lists. The US is going after Islamists in that region and telling the Maghreb and neighborhood Islamists to just look around that part of the world.

 

The few remains of other al Qaeda-linked Islamists including leaders such Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, Abdulrahman in Yemen, have been smeared across the burned wrecks of too many supposedly safe houses and vehicles for them not to get the message: the US is coming after them.  Nobody the US wants today runs for long.

 

As the new breed of drone operators chalk on the anti-al Qaeda and Taliban briefing sheets: God May Be Great – Predators Spitting Hellfire missiles are Greater.

 

Equally this is not where President Obama wanted to be, especially during inaugural week. It certainly turns the iconic Don’t Ask What America CanDo For You into Just Think What America Can Do To You.  Obama’s next four years won’t all be economy fixing. But with John Brennan as his drone hitman set to head the CIA, Obma will be signing off more drone attacks than health care Bills.

Although drone technology has been around since World War II, the priority technology programmes developed especially by the US and Israel – and often in collaboration – turned what was second line weaponry into the most talked about system. The big kick in the program came in the 1990s when the Department of Defense (DoD) signed a three way contract with Israel’s Maziat and America’s AAI Corporation of Maryland to produce a new generation of unmanned airborne vehicles.

One of the systems that came out of that deal was the still-in-use AAI Pioneer. The came General Atomics MQ-1, known as Predator and living up to its name. Putting  an air-to-ground Hellfire missile aboard changed the effectiveness of this form of theatre attack warfare.

Take all this on board because America is not stopping there.  There is almost no weapon system apart from heavy cruise that cannot be carried by the latest systems and there is hardly any target that can hide once data transfer from human to satellite information is patched in.Most importantly, Obama’s people are saying here that there is no sovereignty issue that will stop them attacking a suspect target.  That’s important because until recently, say the past five to seven years, the idea of attacking a target in another country unless you were at war in that place, was very delicate diplomacy and didn’t pick up too much support even from allies.

All that’s changed in Afghanistan when Taliban targets were droned in Pakistan. A ball park one thousand people have been killed by US drones – Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk – in Pakistan during the past five or six years. A few, maybe 20 were al Qaeda/Taliban leaders. But not all the victims of the drones were on any wanted lists.  The best estimate suggests that innocent people – including children – were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
 

So when the US says they’re going for the al Qaeda leadership it means that bystanding is unwise. And back in Main Street USA, you won’t see too many Human Rights Watch activists getting too many petitions going to stop the drone. Americans had heard of Osama Bin Laden, but that’s about it.

 

Names abroad mean nothing and what happens to them and those caught in the target radius is of little interest. If the President says he’s a Bad Guy, then the answer is blow the black Stetson to pieces. In a society that has more privately held weapons than voters, America won’t blink on this one especially as ground troop commitments are zero.  The bonus is the evidence of the past 72 hours that there are many Bad Guys on the run.

 

And the President knows that mostly, American allies have the same view. No one, not even the French, wants to sign up for the new Afghanistan.  Maybe they say, just maybe Predator will do the truly dirty work for them.

 

Could be they’re right, but when the place is clean it has to be assumed that they new Bad Guys will be back.  Then the reality is that boots have to be on the ground – and they won’t all be African.

Christopher Lee

January 1, 2013

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It’s hard to feel easy when Karzai claims his army is on stream to control national security – so careful how you bet the ranc

 

1st January 2013

Hamid Kazai has announced that his forces are about to take responsibility for close on 90 per cent of the nation’s security.

Do we believe him? The short answer is: best lay off any bets with another diplomatic and military hedge funder. As the shaggy eye-browed General Pete Carter used to say about this place, “You can sure bet the ranch that yesterday was a good day but only because we’re still here.”  In other words, we made it through the past 24 hours but the jury’s out on the next 24. So careful how you bet on this place for 2013, never mind 2014.

The President is claiming that the Afghan security forces will, by the middle months of 2013 be taking the lead for security for 87 percent of the Afghan population and 23 of the 34 Afghan provinces.
This is effectively the transition of the fourth group of provinces and districts that include significant towns and cities into an Afghan run security program.

Alliance Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is telling anyone who will listen (and they do because more than 40 states have at one time or another deployed troops into Afghanistan) that Afghanistan can do it as advertised. He says (and here I more or less quote),

“This is a significant step towards our shared goal of seeing Afghans fully in charge of their own security by the end of 2014. It is the result of the progress we have made together, and thanks to the courage and resolve of the Afghan people, the Afghan forces and our ISAF troops and trainers.”

Here, Rasmussen means that the Afghan army (the ANA) and police are steadily growing in capacity and confidence. They already lead the vast majority of operations, are responsible for most of the training, and are highly trusted by the Afghan people.

It’s OK to set this out as a success, not because it is a success, but because it is not a failure.  If that sounds uncharitable a judgment and even perverse than maybe it is right.  

Neither Karzai nor Rasmussen go into the distinction between the Afghan Army takeover and the police.  The ANA is clearly working on its game.  The police remain suspect and in too many cases downright corrupt and untrustworthy.  There’s the rub. Future security throughout the 34 Afghan provinces, especially in the towns and cities cannot be delivered without the police who are essentially local forces in home territories unlike the army that can adopt the arguably easier patrolling and rapid reaction role.

So, like any other form of constabulary, the Afghan police are local and identifiable and are therefore, vulnerable to local pressures including threats and bribes from militants.

The British former Royal Marine commander, Major General Julian Thompson, long ago pointed out that the police are vulnerable to persuasion and corruption because many of them go home at night.  Therefore living in the community is a weakness rather than the advantage it should be.

Furthermore, there is no indication whatsoever that the present talks with Taliban will do anything to enhance security. Absolute control by Taliban does not mean the form of security that NATO and ISAF and indeed Kaizai had envisaged.

There is an added problem that Rasumussen and Karzai cannot possible judge, nor speak to: Taliban and militants in Pakistan are threatening, maiming and killing at will.  The importance of this is that the security of Afghanistan depends entirely on the stability of Pakistan.

Understanding that simple reality allows the regional complexity to focus the conditions that will bring about the stability that Karzai suggests is possible soon with the ambition of Rasmussen that all will go to plan by the time in 2014 when the coalition withdraws from combat operations in Afghanistan – although for now the US plan is that drone attacks will continue.

Afghanistan’s future is a regional subject.  Pakistan, India, to great extend Iran as well as the Central Asian Republics all have a part to play in stability. All this is why the NATO Secretary General’s remarks are nothing more than yesterday was a good day stuff. As for Karzai? Just remember the golden rule of any big insurance gamble: always lay off bets.  Then for all of us, yesterday was good.

Christopher Lee

October 8, 2012

Afghanistan On The Verge of Collapse. So what Are we Going To Do About It? Nothing!!

8th October 2012
We’ve been told today by the International Crisis Group that when coalition forces pull out of Afghanistan, then we should expect civil war. Why? Because, says the Crisis Group (ICG) the Afghan army and the police won’t be able to handle security.

Well Bless Our Souls! Who ever would have thought this? Can it be possible that all those smoothie US and UK generals, ministers and we-lie-for-our-country ambassadors have been talking telling us itsy-bitsy porkies? Put another way, could it possibly be that the crock-of-crap we thought was a crock-of-crap was indeed a crock-of-crap?

Should we not take comfort from the Afghan government spokesman who, in a measured response to the ICG report said it was “nonsense and garbage.” That’s better! That’s the considered language we like to hear from the Afghan government of Mr Karzai and not the nonsense from the ICG who reckon the chances are high that unless the Karzai people get it together right now then the chances are there will be civil war and the government will take a tumble and never get up again.

As for democratic elections – forget them, says the Brussels-based group. It is a near certainty that under current conditions the 2014 elections will be plagued by massive fraud. Vote rigging in the south and east, where security continues to deteriorate, is all but guaranteed. High levels of violence across the country before and on the day of the polls are likely to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands more would-be voters.

There is another view of course. Karzai’s government would say that Afghanistan is not a creation of the US-led offensive. The tribes of this region have spent 5,000 years fighting intruders including the three brutal wars against nineteenth-century British imperialism. Curiously, Afghanistan is a metaphorical graveyard of modern imperial ambitions (Russian and American in particular) yet it has succumbed seemingly inevitably to internecine and tribal bitterness within its own boundaries.

So here we have two sides of the same concerns that mean we have to reflect that the US inspired alliance went to Afghanistan to defend their interests not those of the Afghan peoples. That was a decade ago. Today state and national legislators have inexact perceptions of ten years ago and instead think of our own times of re-elections, lost purpose and so sense public indifference especially now that Osama Bin Laden is no more. This last point must never be ignored. All the time Osama Bin Laden was free then Western publics had an underlying uneasiness about their own security. Once killed, then surely that mood changed. Was not the purpose of going to Afghanistan fulfilled? None said otherwise, so the time had to come home and put the unused body-bags in store for the next time.

Given all this, it is hardly surprising that voting publics and their politicians are tending to think that it is time to go and it matters not if Afghanistan is able to defend itself. That mood is not going to change, whatever the ICG and others say: after all, the generals, politicians and diplomats talk up the allied successes because they cannot suffer failure and naturally, if everything is fine and dandy as they lie that it is, then it’s Okay to quit. What we must now need to know is the how far we are advanced in providing the constitutional protection that the emerging state needs. What happens if the fears of the ICG are taken on board and we do publicly accept the very real possibilities that postponed elections could so easily lead to upheaval and therefore at the very minimum dangerous declarations of state of emergency particularly in the run up to or during the presidential campaign season in 2014.

The ICG believes it is only logical that outside states – particularly the British and Americans must tie Karzai into an emergency plan of what to do if elections are significantly delayed or that polling results lead to prolonged disputes or a run-off.

That means immediately that The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) should say now that if all else fails it will hang around with an operational plan to back-up Afghan forces.

If NATO and ISAF do not do this, then the state of emergency will be inevitable because the executive, the judiciary and the parliament will have no common voice nor authority. The consequence will be the collapse of the state. In most minds, that would mean Afghanistan dissolving into civil war. Cynics may say, so what? Bigger cynics may sayd, it’s alw=ready happening. About time then that outside but interested governments could have the guts to react to the ISG report with its own voiced observations instead of hand over the mouth private briefings that officially never take place.

We all know what the ISG has said is true. We do not know what our liberating governments propose to do about it. We really should know.

Christopher Lee

September 24, 2012

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The US Surge is over Mr Kazai – Now what are you going to do?

24th September 2012

The last of the 33,000 US Surge troops hit Continental US this week and as everyone knows, that’s it Karzai – better get used to the idea that from now on it’s increasingly all yours.  We’re out.  

There’s no hiding in Kabul from the reality of the US exit from Helmand.  We all knew they were going.  They said so months ago. We all feel just as safe, in other words, we never felt safe anyway.  

But the toughie now comes: what will the US do with the 68,000 of so troops it has left? The answer: they’ll do everything possible to keep them alive and not end up on the Taliban score sheet.  If that makes it all sound some of game then you’ve hit it in one.  That’s what this whole thing has been about since 2001 – a mean, bad and ugly game played by the Americans and their mostly European Yes Men.  

A whole shed-load of US and British officers have gone to Afghanistan in search of promotion and rep.  Show a soldier a war and he has to go.  That’s what he is hired to do but with no Afghan row of medals, then he may as well take a career brake.

Sad to say, in all wars it’s mostly the dudes who get KIA on their Service records. The ranchers get to be one, two and maybe even three stars.  The irony is that however high or low you get on the military pay-grade in that overwhelming beautiful country, you still don’t fix the war.  

At one time the blatantly obvious cliche-ridden one star with a name to make would spew out the conventional wisdom that there was no military solution to Afghanistan, only a political one.  No one stood up and said wait a minute: without a military solution there cannot be a political one. In other words what the hell are we doing in yet another fire fight that every one knows we’re going to quit when shrouds get as common as empty gum wrappers?

So it has been with the surge.  Talk to the Afghan insiders and they’ll tell you bluntly that they’re weren’t too happy when the surge troops arrived and they’re hardly sorry they’ve gone.  If that sounds illogical considering the curb on Taliban activity during the surge, then it is not. It is part of the considerable opinion that says the American surge alienating many Afghans and that the Taliban capitalized on that US unpopularity.

This ignores the fact that many towns and cities in Kandahar and Helmand are better off from the big US influx that sent Taliban going for cover. Now the last helmets are hunger up in the US The people there are waiting for the Taliban’s return.  The statistics tell us something we have to learn about this war.

Afghanistan is split into about 400 districts. Between 45 and 50 percent of all attacks on the people, the government and the ISAF forces take place in the ten southern districts. Want to see a war? That’s the place to go.  Always has been. And don’t be fooled by the ISAF-NATO numbers.  

The truth is this: killings are as great as when the surge troops arrived. In the first six months of 2010 1267 civilians were killed.  In the first six months of 2012, 1145 have been killed.  Not much in it if you’re trying to claim success.

So who covers the US pullout? In theory, Afghan troops.  British and American commanders tell pliant TV crews that the ANA are fine soldiers and the training has done a good job.  They do not say that unlike Taliban who are dedicated fighters, the ANA and especially the police are not dedicated.  No Commitment.  Commitment gets you killed.

Simply, the ANA and police have not filled the gap left by the departed US surge troops and worse, they never will whatever the ISAF handouts tell you. 

The Taliban have a saying: “the Americans have all the watches and we [Taliban] have all the time”.  In other words, when ISAF goes we will take over.  Better believe it.

Christopher Lee

September 18, 2012

Afghanistan is not hell, but you can see it from Kabul.  And the future’s better than the escaping US & UK think.

18th September, London
Most people know, or claim they know, that the coalition forces should never have gone to Afghanistan. Those same members of the Let’s Get Out Now brigade are basically saying to hell with Afghans. Let them get on with it.  Karzai can go to Hell. As you can see from Kabul he won’t have far to go.

As for British and American soldiers they’re being picked off one by one either by Taliban or individual Afghan guys in uniform who are either demented (the convenient ISAF explanation) or whom have just that moment been insulted and humiliated in front of their colleagues. So bring them home by Christmas say British legislators in the House of Commons – or at least some of them do.

Everyone knows it’s a mess and those who really know a thing or two also understand that logistically and practically it’s impossible to get the brave boys and gals home in time for mince pies and Santa.

The British foreign secretary, the increasingly sad figure of William Hague said the NATO decision to scale back patrols with Afghans will have what he calls a “minimal” impact on UK strategy.

But wait one moment Mr Hague.  What’s this UK strategy?  Since when is the UK fighting a private war?  Come now, why not admit that policy is being made on the hoof which is fine.  That’s pretty standard in warfare.  What is a little disturbing is that the Americans are panicking – again pretty standard stuff in war.

That panic was relayed to ISAF and without much consultations, the Americans told ISAF to postpone joint patrols.  So much for the coalition of the willing.  The Brits are the other man joint patrollers and have suffered much from insider killings.  It is clear that as ever, the Americans totally ignored the Brits.  Instead they’re saying they have had enough and they’re doing what they have a record of doing in these imperial and colonial war things – giving up.  Remember Vietnam if nothing else.

The British defense secretary, Philip Hammond is a reasonable man with a poisoned chalice.  He’s presiding over the most mismanaged defense cuts in generations and knows full well there are going to be more so far unannounced reductions in British defense funding.

Pulling out of Afghanistan, as much as he would like everyone home safely, will do nothing much more than allow the Treasury guys into his ministry with a slash and burn policy on major projects such as the two Royal Navy carriers and, what’s more the public will support the Treasury. Not much of a job really.

What’s more, when Hague and Hammond say nothing that’s going on at the moment will change British strategy they talk amazing self-important nonsense.

Everything in Afghanistan and Washington is moving too fast for Hammond.  He was in Kabul a few days ago and told Karzai that it was up to his people to get a grip on ANA and police recruiting.  In other words it’s Karzai who must do something to stop green on blue. The Americans are not so daft as Hammond.  The Americans know full well that Karzai cannot deliver his own crap to the pan as a cold eyed colonel put it to me.

Karzai is due to go in 2014, the year his real minders in the form of the coalition forces skip the country. So who runs the country when he goes? Some think he’s lining up his brother for the job. Those same people point out that his brother is corrupt.  This is the land of corruption, so what matters that?  Anyway, Karzai doesn’t really want his brother in the job.  If that came to pass, Karzai might just as well get on the last helicopter out in 2014 – Vietnam style.  His days would be numbered if his brother forced his way in.

Come the day the people who have to sort themselves are the Taliban.  The old guard want their jobs back that they had post-Soviet occupation and the new idealists want a say in the country’s future – don’t forget it’s potentially a very mineral rich state.  The problem is with the hoodlums who’ll have no status once the war is over.  Parochially, Northern Ireland is a prime example of that as Hammond knows full well.

What will happen?  Afghanistan will be partially governed and in desperate need of outside help.  Once the main coalition brigades are gone they promise to leave a rump coalition left to continue training both military and civilian middle management – company commanders in both senses.  A nation trying for peace cannot survive without its middle-class in everything it does. That should be the real Hague ambition – to provide just that.

The money therefore has to be on the idea that what’s happening now is something you could have guessed would happen and it will not change the long term way to a different Afghanistan. A grim Taliban takeover?  Not entirely and in truth not really. There is no Eldorado for Afghans at the end of this but as long as Pakistan, India and the Central Asian Republics don’t squabble over the spoils of this war, Afghanistan will assume the grand status of an emerging nation.  That’s not so bad.

And that’s why all the American panic and the British puffed up ego don’t matter a bit. The fluster and bluster and scare too easily because mentally, they’ve already abandoned the place.